Some Florida lawmakers are renewing a push to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage to more low-income residents in the state. Rep. Amanda Murphy, D-Port Richey, and Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, are sponsoring bills to enable Florida to receive millions of dollars through the federal Affordable Care Act to provide healthcare to more residents.
In a news release, Rep. Murphy said it would be “irresponsible” not to accept the federal funding when hundreds of thousands of Florida residents don’t have the insurance coverage they need.The money would be funneled through the Healthy Kids and Healthy Florida programs, which assist individuals and families to buy private insurance coverage.
Rep. Murphy contended that action is needed immediately because many Florida businesses potentially face millions in fines for failing to provide insurance.
New Port Richey Attorney Larry Disparti, who represents people with disabilities, in Representative Murphy’s district, strongly favors the expansion of Medicaid coverage to more Florida residents. The legislative proposals are a common-sense step, he said.
“Helping clients obtain benefits through Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income has made me keenly aware of the hurdles many people face in maintaining a decent quality of life,” Mr. Disparti said. “These are people who suddenly find themselves in need of assistance, and they deserve good quality healthcare.”
Last year, the state Senate agreed to expand Medicaid, but the measure failed in the House. Many legislators said they were concerned that funding from the federal government would vanish and the state would be left with a financial burden it can’t afford.
To address those concerns, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has proposed the use of local revenue to continue paying for Medicaid expansion when the federal government ends 100 percent funding in 2017. Nelson outlined the proposal in a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Nelson said Florida loses $7 million in federal funding each day it doesn’t expand Medicaid. An estimated 1.2 million Florida residents whose income is less than 138 percent of the poverty level would be covered. About two-thirds of them lack affordable coverage now, Nelson wrote.